Saturday, September 30, 2023

Seraikela: Chhau Dhol Guru Mangla Mukhi and his broken crutches

Himalayan Paths

Mail News Service

Saraikela, June 10: Percussion instruments are a tradition in themselves. Every music score and every dance move is incomplete without tala or laya which, in English, denotes rhythm. Chhau Nritya or Chhau dance form is a tradition born and nurtured basically in the tribal domains of Chhota Nagpur and with time, graduated to shailis or styles of executing dancing expressions. Chhau Nritya now finds expressions in Saraikela, Manbhum and Purulia shailis or schools of dance. But whatever the forms, percussion instruments are the most essential ingredients, like salt to curry, to create the flavour of excitement and rhythm and evoke resounding applause by overwhelmed audiences worldwide.

 One such vital percussion instrument in Chhau dance performances is the traditional Dhol without which, conceiving and executing rhythm is impossible. Dance without rhythm is like rearing fish in a football field. One of the leading masters in the art of playing Dhol is 61 year old Guru Mangla Mukhi who is now resigned to moving around on broken crutches and living in abject poverty and whom everybody sees almost daily; a few sigh while seeing him and that is about all.

And this is the same man, the same Dhol Guru Mangla Mukhi who has entranced audiences across 24 countries including Vienna, Holland, Amsterdam, Oslo, Helsinki, Belgium, Yugoslavia, Berlin, Thailand, Netherland, United Kingdom, Denmark, Japan besides other nations and metropolises. In fact, Guru Mangla Mukhi was honoured with the ‘Man of the Year’ Award by the American Biographical Institute in 2004.  

Chhau Dhol Guru Mangla Mukhi has had the privilege of performing in several dance presentations by Padma Shri Award winning Chhau Nritya Gurus on national and international platforms. The Dhol Guru enjoys a pride of place among leading artistes who have stamped the hallmark of Chhau fame on the international firmament.

In 1995, Mangla Mukhi was honoured with the post of Visiting Dhol Guru by Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi in which capacity he served at the Rajkiya Chhau Nritya Kala Kendra. The Jharkhand Government organized a Chhau Festival earlier this year where it honoured the legendary Chhau Dhol Guru Mangla Mukhi.

Mangla Mukhi was born in a family of committed Chhau artistes. Born in 1962, he took to playing Dhol under the expert guidance of his father, late Shuru Mukhi and uncle Shatrughna Mukhi. At the age of 14 years, young Mangla was well on his way to fame as he performed with masters of Chhau in and around Saraikela and later across the country and by the time he knocked on the doors of youth, Mangla had become a household name across the country where special programmes were organized for the performances of this particular genre of dance that gave a special thrust to adrenaline flow. His mesmerizing mastery over the Dhol caught the attention of connoisseurs and soon he launched on his international career as no Chhau performance was complete or as resplendent without Mangla Mukhi’s Dhol beats. There was no hesitating Tom when he was ordained ‘Dhol Guru’ Mangla Mukhi. He had created an international world of his admirers.

Even today, despite his physical and financial challenges, Dhol Guru Mangla Mukhi dreams big about qualitative broadening of the Chhau Nritya world. Guru Mangla Mukhi is still seen and heard casting his magical spell of Dhol beats during Ma Pauri Puja, Rath Yatra and other traditional festivities. And yet, this legendary Dhol Guru today is just another guy limping and hobbling around on broken crutches. No social worker or so-called social group has come forward yet to ease the man’s miseries. He seems resigned to his fate. He has learnt to accept and live the fate that has been unwarrantedly destined for him. But the fact remains that Guru Mangla Mukhi and his spell-casting Dhol have etched their names in the pages of posterity. So what if he still moves around with his broken crutches; so what if he spills his occasional tears in the darkness of loneliness! He still remains the Dhol Guru Mangla Mukhi whose unique, rhythmic beats continue to spell magic in the minds of passionate Chhau artistes and addicts who have had the joy of being at his performances.

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